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Junior doctors' shortage hitting emergency units

MANY emergency departments are experiencing major shortages of junior doctors -- and there are fears the problem could worsen next year.

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) expects a survey of its members to reveal that most emergency departments are short of their normal complement of junior doctors.

Hospital consultants around the country have been polled by the association to find out how bad the staffing crisis is in their individual hospitals, and the results are being compiled.

It is understood that there is a serious shortage of junior doctors countrywide, the exact extent of which will be revealed in the survey.

IAEM President Fergal Hickey said that some departments were fully staffed.


However, he said, "when you average it, you're talking about being down about 25pc of complement."

He said that it affected both senior house officers and registrars.

The HSE, for its part, has indicated that the management of vacancies is being monitored on a risk assessment basis to ensure continuity of service to patients across the hospital system.

The HSE said it had been working for many months, and continued to work on a daily basis, to address the issue of shortage of junior doctors across the hospital system.

It added that contingency plans were in place across the four HSE regions.

Mr Hickey said that the staff shortage was being exacerbated by the fact that there had not been an increase in the number of consultants, according to an article in this week's Irish Medical Times


Meanwhile, there are fears that the problem would get worse come the January changeover -- junior doctors traditionally sign contracts every six months, either staying in the same job or going on to another training post in a different hospital. Nearly 4,700 junior doctors are required to to help run hospital services in this country.

According to the most recent figures, released on July 28, a total of 260 junior doctor posts were vacant nationwide.

A shortage of junior doctors in hospitals across the country was signalled earlier this summer in advance of the normal six-monthly changeover in July when thousands of junior doctors switch posts.

However, visa arrangements have been relaxed in a bid to recruit and retain doctors.